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Bonkers

by Michelle Holman

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I read another one of Ms Holman’s titles Hand Me Down a couple of years ago – & for me it was a very flawed read. I was told that this book, Bonkers, was Ms Holman’s best work.

Hmmmmm.

It was an interesting premise -an angel swaps the souls of two woman at the point of death- and nice Lisa ends up in the body of bad Linda – whose husband hates her. (and bad Linda ends up dead in Lisa’s body) Sounds awful doesn’t it, but for the first third watching Lisa navigate her new life was very entertaining. Unfortunately, lots of the book was exactly like Hand Me Down – dragged on way too long! Maybe Ms Holman had to reach a minimum book length and instead of creating a second book for secondary characters she had become fond of, went to absurd lengths to give even minor characters a happy ending. This was as painful as I have made it sound.

I gave Hand Me Down 3★, but even though I prefer this book, I just can’t go higher than three.

No Winner

by Daphne Clair

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I still have great fondness for Daphne Clair’s (aka Laurey Bright and Daphne de Jong) Mills & Boon romances.

The best of her works are wonderful studies of both the main couple’s character & motivations. It is amazing how much Daphne can pack into less than 190 pages. They often feature New Zealand settings – in this book’s case, both where I mostly grew up (Auckland) and where I live now. Both descriptions are on the generic side and I would wonder if our town’s former (very tiny) library would have had more than one librarian in the seventies. (We got a new, more modern library around 1990) But there is just enough of a flavour of both places and NZ (‘hanky’ for handkerchief, individual fruit pies – not so common now!) to delight a Kiwi.

But this novel is problematic – very problematic.

For some it will have more triggers than Roy Rogers and neither of the main characters are particularly likeable. Some of Guy’s past actions are inexcusable – and he definitely seems to be a slow learner. Eloise’s bitterness & fragility is more understandable. She does show a pleasanter character when she is dealing with anyone but Guy!

I did like the way Eloise’s parents were allowed to grow in character & her mother in particular was given some very strong motivation.

But overall I just don’t buy the happy ending (not a spoiler – all M&B have happy endings!) and in fact I find it very hard to think of this ending as happy.

I was all over the place with my rating, but finally settled on a 3. I will probably read more of Daphne’s books and as with other favourite authors, I want to leave enough room to give her better works a higher mark.

I think a skilled writer like Daphne was bored with some of the rigid restrictions of the Mills & Boon formula, and was trying to push the boundaries. Brave move, but I don’t think this was the right one.

Hand Me Down

by Michelle Holman

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The previous novel I read New Orleans Mourning the author didn’t give any nuances in character development at all, let alone make any of them become likeable people. In Hand Me Down Ms Holman does this effortlessly and I really enjoyed the start of this story where a formerly spoilt princess returns to a home town, full of people who have good reason to not be able to stand her. Lots of witty lines and April and Tarn’s early relationship sparkles.

Unfortunately it all turns to custard.

Maybe Ms Holman had to reach a minimum book length. Maybe she was planning a series with either the lively Gudsell family or some of Tarn’s army buddies. Dunno, but suddenly there were way too many characters and the male lead started doing things that didn’t make sense at all. Thirty pages from the end, this book became so ridiculous that I had to force myself to finish.

My copy mentions a new book coming out in 2012. This doesn’t appear to have happened and the URL for Miss Holman’s website is dead & her authorial Facebook page was abandoned in 2018 (although translations of her books were released in the 2010s.) I’m guessing that like many NZ authors in the early 2010s that Michelle lost her publishing contract and decided not to continue. This is a pity, as I have heard good things about her other titles and may read them in the future.

Reckless Conduct

by Susan Napier

I’m having all sorts of trouble adjusting to the all new improved WordPress. Still, while my country is in lockdown will be a good time to adjust.

1.5★

“Be kind,” our Prime Minister said as we head into lockdown.

& I’m trying but I just didn’t like this book.

With Corona virus, I was having trouble concentrating & super stressed. I thought a light romance, by one of my two favourite Mills & Boon writers would lighten my mood – but it didn’t.

I’m trying to be fair & I will try to find positives.

The idea – as presented by the not completely accurate blurb – was good. I have been trying to correct Ms Napier’s listings on Goodreads ad this book’s premise sounded fun. It was a variant of blondes have more fun. I wish I had read that book!

Let’s get on with it.

▪ Plotting is normally Ms Napier’s great strength. But this story is awkward, clumsy & just doesn’t hang together well.

▪ I don’t usually like romances that have teens and children as part of the plot. I can let it go if the author has handled it well & Ms Napier has done so in the past. Nicola barely had any personality or presence in the book. She was merely a plot device. Even worse Napier obviously couldn’t think of what to do with the story. Of course Harriet became pregnant. With triplets as a happy ending – and another child on the way? Harriet really wasn’t ever given much chance to shine with her new, brave personality.

▪ Nicola was 15 & without permission from her father, Harriet persuaded Nicola to have her ears pierced. In New Zealand you have to be at least sixteen. I used to have pierced ears myself – loved them. But it is like tattoos & other permanent changes to someone’s appearance- parents should have the final say.There is a fault in the timeline with Nicola at the end of the book as well.

▪ A Napier man will be your Alpha male type. But usually they have a sense of humour and some endearing quirks. Out of the Napier titles I have read, Marcus is the first of her heroes that hasn’t. I disliked him intensely.

I still want to reread my favourite Napier title [book:Sweet Vixen|5461453] but in fairness to this author, I won’t read any of her other works.

Looks like I have outgrown them and I feel like I should apologise for reading this one when I should have realised that.

Sorry.

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Welcome to Temptation

Welcome to Temptation (Dempseys #1)

Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


2.5★

I was away on a yacht for my holiday break (thanks to some very kind friends). My friends/family were reading Agatha Christie & Georgette Heyer

Far better choices.

Let me explain. I have read & enjoyed some of Crusie’s romances in the past when she was a fresh, funny, new voice in romance. I may still find some of her work amusing. But this one (which has won a lot of awards) hasn’t aged well.

Our Hero has unusual definitions of what constitutes sex and consent when the woman is drunk. In fact Our Heroine doesn’t get to consent to much at all, given the unbelievable way her younger sister pushes her around about trivial matters like [ Sophie’s career and car. One of Sophie’s main turn ons sex with the risk of discovery isn’t mine.

One of the other romances made me feel uncomfortable and queasy.

Large and mostly boring caste of cliches characters.

Some of the sex was pretty hot though.

I’m not abandoning Crusie altogether, but my faith has been shaken.

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Book Review: Secret Admirer

Secret Admirer

Secret Admirer by Susan Napier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


We have a couple of appointments today, so I was going to reread this Napier title during the inevitable hanging around in waiting rooms with no or terrible magazines in their lounge area. But I ended up gulping this steamy novel down last night.

Back when I was a voracious reader of Mills & Boon, Napier was my favourite of their authors. & this was my second favourite of her titles. But I’m thinking if I did reread some of the others…well, some would definitely stand the test of time better than this one!


Obviously, since I am giving it 4★ and read it at the speed of sound, I didn’t hate it. But the whole plot was based on the hero behaving like a creepy stalker and The Twist. (side note: I heard Ms Napier speak while she was working out the plot for this novel – so I was actively looking for this novel for a couple of years. Knowing The Twist didn’t spoil the book for me at all, but I can certainly understand other readers being annoyed at the spoiler filled reviews on Goodreads.) This was a very original idea at the time.

I’ve just finished reading

The Passionate Pen New Zealand's Romance Writers Talk to Rachel McAlpine by Rachel McAlpine

and Ms Napier mentions that the very short word counts on modern Harlequin Mills & Boon make it hard to do much plot or character development. This book could have used another 5k words I think, because most of the plot was the h & H snarling at each other. In spite of this, Grace and Scott were appealing both physically and in character. The sex scenes were pretty hot.

Weak resolution of a couple of plot strands, but still would recommend.

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